Phenomenal Instruction: Teach With Backwards Design

Khaleel Lott, a co-worker and friend, bellowed to me(a 2nd-year teacher): Short, you’re good at teaching with Backwards Design.

Me(In My Head): What the heck is Backwards Design? 

In the years since, I’ve learned that it’s planning lessons with the goal of reaching a desired objective. 

For example, let’s take this TEK(Texas Based Standard): 3.8(C) analyze plot elements, including the sequence of events, the conflict, and the resolution ®. 

R stands for readiness standard in Texas, so that means it’s tested on the S.T.A.A.R.(Texas State Assessment). Making sure that students master the skill is vital for them to achieve success. 

Here’s how you’d teach it with Backwards Design.

Analyze Plot

Day 1: I can identify the problem and solution in a text. 

While conducting a read-aloud, the teacher guides students through identifying the problem, events and solution in a text. After guiding them through that process, they practice with a partner and then independently. 

Day 2: I can summarize the plot of a story. 

For this lesson, introduce Summary with a song and BME(Beginning, Middle, End) anchor chart. 

Then model finding the summary with the students. Students will work with a partner to find the summary. To close the lesson, students will independently find the summary. 

Day 3: I can make a prediction about a text using multimodal approaches. 

Differentiating, guide students through a Google Slide where they will apply their knowledge of elements of plot to make predictions about what the book or movie will be about. 

Day 4: I can analyze the plot for sequence, problem, events and solution. 

All the scaffolding builds towards this day in the unit. The teacher will read a text with scholars and ask questions which require the students to analyze and write a response. 

Sample questions.

1. Why is paragraph 2 important to the text?

2. What event led to the problem being solved?

3. How was a secondary character important to resolving the conflict?

With this method of instruction, students write about reading while allowing the teacher to determine mastery of the standard. 

Day 5: I can demonstrate mastery and synthesize the elements of plot.

To end the unit, students are assessed with a five to ten question quiz. Also, they’re asked to synthesize the text by answering a question-such as: How would you have solved the problem?


In Texas, teaching with backwards design in Writing has heightened importance–as students are assessed for Reading and Writing(3rd-8th grade). 

A simple lesson progression alleviates the stress of helping students master the Writing standards.

Days 1 and 2: Front Load Grammar

On these days, teachers should front load grammar to ensure they become proficient in the conventions.

Day 3: Apply Grammar Conventions

Students apply their grammar knowledge by writing a draft–whether they’re responding to a text or penning a typical composition. 

Day 4: Revise and Edit Drafts

Teachers will instruct on revising or editing a draft with the previously taught skill. Students will confer with peers to revise and edit their rough draft from the day before. 

Day 5: Assess On Skill or Compose Final Draft 

To conclude a writing unit, the teacher should assess the weekly skill and ask students to compose a final draft with corrections. 

In addition to teaching the concepts, teachers have other considerations, as well.

1. Students must become proficient at keyboarding. (State Tests in Texas are on a computer.)

2. Teach students the new question types. 

Meeting state standards is difficult and taxing but with sound planning…It can happen.

Begin With the end in mind by Teaching With Backwards Design. 

Be Phenomenal, Mr. Short

Published by Jeremiah Short

My name is Jeremiah Short, and I'm a educator with nine years of experience. I love to teach and the overall craft of the profession. I've written two books(As I Took My Walk With God Volumes I and II) and have one resource: Phenomenal Intervention: The Playbook. In addition to writing books, I've created several instructional routines: Phenomenal Word Power, T.I.D.E., Bloom's Units: Reading and The Phenomenal Classroom.

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